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Ruling parties desperate to win Ginowan mayoral election

  • 2016-01-12 15:00:00
  • , Mainichi
  • Translation

(Mainichi: January 12, 2016 – p. 5)

 

 By Kei Sato, Ai Yokota

 

 It is now less than a week before official campaigning for the Ginowan mayoral election kicks off on Jan. 17. The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Komeito are moving heaven and earth to campaign for the ruling party candidate, not only because the outcome of the election may affect the relocation of the Futenma Air Station, a key issue for the administration, but also because another defeat in the series of local elections since last year may also affect the House of Representatives by-election in Hokkaido in April and the House of Councillors election in summer.

 

 LDP Secretary General Sadakazu Tanigaki, his Komeito counterpart Yoshihisa Inoue, and election strategy committee chairs of their parties met on Jan. 8 and concluded that the situation is not looking good. This was supposed to the be first ruling party consultations on the Upper House election, but analysis of the situation in the Ginowan mayoral race was also a major topic on the agenda.

 

 In this election, incumbent Mayor Atsushi Sakima, 51, supported by the relocation proponents, is running against former Okinawa Prefectural Government official Keiichiro Shimura, 63, a neophyte candidate who is supported by Governor Takeshi Onaga, an opponent to Henoko relocation. This is an election the ruling parties cannot afford to lose because the results will not only affect Futenma relocation, but also the upcoming Upper House election, which is also expected to be a contest between candidates supported by the governor and LDP incumbents.

 

 Yet, while the LDP is wielding overwhelming power in the Diet, the ruling parties have been fighting uphill battles in local elections.

 

 The candidate endorsed by the LDP and Komeito lost in the Saga gubernatorial race in January 2015. The candidate fielded by the LDP Saitama chapter also lost the gubernatorial election there in August. In the subsequent Iwate gubernatorial race, which kicked off official campaigning in August, the LDP Iwate chapter lost without even fighting because its prospective candidate gave up on running in the election. There is a strong sense of alarm in the ruling parties that “if we do not stop the trend, this will have a serious impact on future elections.”

 

 Therefore, the LDP is treating the Ginowan election like a national election. Diet members elected from Okinawa have been sent back to their constituencies, while other Diet members were also ordered to make the rounds of local companies and organizations.

 

 Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi flew to Okinawa on Jan. 5, declaring: “We have great expectations (on Mr. Sakima) and we are supporting him once again.” Members of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly were also told to visit offices of Okinawan companies in Tokyo.

 

 However, relocation opponents won the Nago mayoral election and the Okinawa gubernatorial race in 2014. A senior LDP official laments that, “We won’t know if we can win until the last minute.”

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